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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Overview of NIMH

Porter building on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead federal agency for research on mental illnesses. NIMH is one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest biomedical research agency in the world. The mission of NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

To carry out this mission, NIMH, as established by the Mental Health Act of 1946 and in accordance with Title IV of the Public Health Service Act, conducts and supports biomedical and behavioral research, health services research, research training, and health information dissemination with respect to the causes, diagnosis, treatment, management, and prevention of mental illnesses. As mental health is an important part of overall health, NIMH invests in research on adaptive and maladaptive behaviors to better understand mental function and dysfunction.

NIMH supports research and research training through extramural activities and conducts research and research training through intramural activities. Through its extramural program, NIMH currently supports more than 4,000 research grants and contracts annually at universities, academic health centers, and other research institutions across the country and around the world. The NIMH Extramural Research Program is organized into five scientific funding Divisions—the Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science, the Division of Translational Research, the Division of Services and Intervention Research, the Division of AIDS Research, and the recently formed Division of Data Science and Technology. Assisted by the Division of Extramural Activities, NIMH staff in these Divisions manage and administer the extramural research grants and contracts that support cutting-edge scientific discovery in basic, translational, comparative effectiveness, and implementation science that aims to transform understanding, prevention, and treatment of mental illnesses across the lifespan, from prenatal development to late life.

Staff in the NIMH Intramural Research Program (IRP) plan and conduct basic, clinical, and translational research to advance understanding of the causes, diagnosis, treatment, management, and prevention of psychiatric disorders. NIMH IRP investigators utilize the unique resources of NIH to conduct state-of-the-art research in an environment conducive to the training and development of clinical and basic scientists that often complements extramural research activities. The NIMH IRP supports more than 650 scientists, who work on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. NIMH intramural scientists range from molecular biologists working in laboratories to clinical researchers working with patients in the NIH Clinical Center, the world’s largest hospital dedicated to clinical research. The variety of scientific expertise facilitates interdisciplinary studies and promotes translational research, linking basic research discoveries to clinical care.

To deliver high quality, impactful research and promote translation of such research into clinical practice, services delivery, and policy, NIMH developed the Strategic Plan for Research to advance our mission and guide research over a five-year period. The NIMH Strategic Plan for Research builds on the successes of previous NIMH Strategic Plans, provides a framework for research to leverage new opportunities for scientific exploration, and addresses new challenges in mental health. In this Strategic Plan for Research, NIMH outlines four high-level Goals as follows:

These four Goals form a broad roadmap for the institute’s research priorities over the next five years, beginning with fundamental science of the brain and behavior, and extending through evidence-based services that improve public health outcomes.

Please Note: The terms “mental illnesses,” “mental disorders,” and “psychiatric disorders” are used interchangeably throughout this document. These terms are meant to include an array of disorders within NIMH’s scope of interest. Reference to a specific disorder or condition (i.e., as an example or a highlight) or research area does not imply prioritization, unless otherwise noted. Furthermore, NIMH respects the known comorbidity and heterogeneity of symptoms and traits across mental disorders and recognizes that knowledge gained from studying one may inform understanding of and treatment for others.